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Nietzsche Vs. Hobbes Essay, Research Paper
ANDREW LANGILLE GRADE 13 PHILOSOPHY COURSE,
How are the philosophies of Nietzsche and Hobbes different on topics of
Christianity, Human Nature, and Morality.
The philosophies of Nietzsche and Hobbes? are radically different, Hobbes?
philosophy is dominated by loyalty to the crown, riddled with references to the Christian
scriptures, and a belief that life is ?nasty, brutish, and short?(Leviathan, 133); while
Nietzsche?s philosophy was dominated by the pessimistic Schopenhauer, a belief that the
human race was a herd, and that ?God is dead?(Thus Spoke Zarathustra, S. 13). Hobbes
and Nietzsche look at the world completely differently. Hobbes was a Christian who
defended the bible, while Nietzsche called ?Christianity the one great curse?(The
Anti-Christ, s. 62). On the topic of human nature Hobbes thought life to be a ?warre…of
every man, against every man?(Leviathan, 232) while Nietzsche took a nihilistic
approach and declared that ? human nature is just a euphemism for inertia, cultural
conditioning, and what we are before we make something of ourselves…?(Human, all to
Human, 67). On morality these two philosophers have opposing views, Hobbes views on
morality were straight out of Exodus, while Nietzsche holds that ?morality is a hindrance
to the development of new and better customs: it makes stupid [people]?(Daybreak, s.
19). These two philosophers lived at different times, in different locations, and their
differing philosophies reflect the lives that they lived.
Thomas Hobbes was born into an English upper class family in 1588, his father
was the parish priest. Thomas was educated by his uncle until he was fifteen, when he
was sent to Oxford to continue his studies. In 1608 he finished his formal education and
took up with the son of Lord Cavendish, they undertook an adventure which saw them
travel across Europe. Hobbes remained in England until the start of the English civil war
when he fled to France. The civil war took place from 1642 till 1649, this conflict had a
profound affect on Hobbes, particularly the execution of Charles I in 1649. All his
writings after this event reflect Hobbes? quest to find a peaceful, stable form of
government. Hobbes died in 1679.
Fredrich Nietzsche was born into a upper class family in Germany, on 15 October
1844, his father was tutor for the royal family and also a priest. Nietzsche father died
when he was twelve, this had life-long impact on him. At age eight-teen he discovered
the philosopher Schopenhauer, the basis for much of his early work, and gave up
Christianity. He was educated at the University of Bonn, at the age of twenty-five
Nietzsche was appointed Professor of Philosophy at the University of Basle. He became
close friends with composer Richard Wanger, who?s work he enthusiastically supported.
Nietzsche most productive years were to be his last, he drove insane by syphilis and died
at the dawn of this century.
Nietzsche declared in that ?modern Christian civilization is sick and must be
overcome?(The Anti-Christ, 156), Hobbes would have found that excerpt to be repugnant
having declared that ?God…when he speaks to any subject…he ought to be obeyed?
(Leviathan, 492). Hobbes was a Christian, while Nietzsche was a atheist, their views on
Christianity are completely opposite. Nietzsche held the belief throughout his life that
?Christianity has taken the side of everything weak, base, ill-constituted, it has
made an ideal out of opposition to the preservative instincts of a strong life; it has
depraved the reason even of the intellectually strongest natures by teaching men
to feel the supreme values of intellectuality as sinful, as misleading, as
temptations,?(The Anti-Christ, S. 5)
Professor Howard Rainer of Davis University states that ?Nietzsche was
uncompromisingly anti-Christian, for Christianity was the most potent force against those
values which he prized most highly.? Nietzsche felt that Christianity would hinder the
emergence of the ?overman?(The Will to Power, 546), a human being that follows their
own path and not the herd?s. Hobbes while being a Christian to the end, had a rather
pessimistic view of it; Professor Ian Johnston of Malaspina University states that ?
Hobbes believed the public religion of the artificial state must serve the need for security
to protect the selfish economic interests of the individuals composing it.? Hobbes view of
Christianity was quite radical for his time and he publicly scorned for his belief that
Christendom was nothing more economic security blanket; Hobbes attacked the elements
in the Christian church which profited from religion. The times in which Hobbes and
Nietzsche lived in were very different, in Hobbes times ?Deadly religious wars were
fought across the European continent. It was in this climate the Thomas Hobbes
proposed…[his] philosophy.?(Howard Rainer, Lecture Notes) Nietzsche did not have to
worry about being hunted as a heretic if his ideas were not like by members of the
Christian community, Hobbes did. Hobbes makes references to the scripture quite
frequently in his works, he uses them to strengthen his ideas surrounding philosophy;
Nietzsche never quotes from the Bible but he make many references to the parables of
Jesus, he uses these in his critiques on modern Christianity. Hobbes and Nietzsche views
on Christianity could never be reconciled, Hobbes died a Christian, while Nietzsche is
reputed as saying ?let me go to my grave a honest pagan?.
Both Nietzsche and Hobbes share a pessimistic view of human nature, Hobbes
asserted that life was ?nasty, brutish, and short?(Leviathan, 278) while Nietzsche
believed that human nature was akin to that of an animal herd. Professor Howard Rainer
of Davis University states that ?Nietzsche thought that human nature was nothing more
than cultural conditioning on a mass scale. Nietzsche and Hobbes both shared the view
that human nature changed depending on the situations a person found themselves in.
Hobbes ideas on human nature were gloomy, in Leviathan Hobbes states
?in the nature of man, we find three principall causes of quarell. First,
Competition; Secondly, Diffidence; Thirdly, Glory. The first, maketh men invade
for Gain; the second for Safety; and the third, for Reputation.?(Leviathan, 345)
Most of Hobbes ideas were born out of his experience with the English Civil War,
Hobbes; ?attitude toward man, whom he considered a wicked animal, knowing no
restraint to his passions, was, doubtlessly formulated in England during the turbulent
years of the Revolution.?(Ethics:Origins and Development, 172). Nietzsche thoughts on
human nature are revealed in this quote: ? It is not things, but opinions about things that
have absolutely no existence, which have so deranged mankind!?(Daybreak, s. 563)
Nietzsche held the belief that man had no such thing as human nature to battle against, he
belief that the idea of human nature was fictitious creation of past philosophers who
sought to explain life. Nietzsche advanced the opinion that mankind has a ?Herd
mentality [that] overcomes master morality by making all the noble qualities appear to be
vices and all weak qualities appear to be virtues. Mediocre values are the values of the
herd.?(Helen Grayman, Lecture Notes). Nietzsche?s writings on human nature, for the
most part are an attack on the herd mentality, which he holds great contempt for.
Nietzsche put forth this idea ?Our entire sociology simply does not know any other
instinct than that of the herd, i.e., that of the sum of zeros-where every zero has ?equal
rights,? where it is virtuous to be zero.?(The Will to Power, 33) Nietzsche believes that
?Not ?mankind? but overman is the goal!?(The Will to Power, 519 ), this means that the
goal of the human race, in Nietzsche?s mind, should be the development of a class of
human beings that is not part of the herd, which hinders mankind?s development. Both
Hobbes and Nietzsche?s views on human nature were misanthropic, Nietzsche held the
belief that mankind was nothing more than a herd, and Hobbes views on human nature
can be summed up wonderfully with three words: competition, diffidence, and glory.
Hobbes and Nietzsche have differing opinions on morality, Hobbes adhered to the
Christian mores during his time, Nietzsche would have found this funny because he was
an atheist and also because he did not beleive in any moral code. Nietzsche thought
?Morality makes stupid.– Custom represents the experiences of men of earlier
times as to what they supposed useful and harmful – but the sense for custom
(morality) applies, not to these experiences as such, but to the age, the sanctity,
the indiscussability of the custom. And so this feeling is a hindrance to the
acquisition of new experiences and the correction of customs: that is to say,
morality is a hindrance to the development of new and better customs: it makes
stupid.? (Daybreak,s. 19),
he believed that morality prevents people from reaching their full potential in life, he
uses the example of the head mentality to show how people are controlled by their
morals. Nietzsche believed that morals are one of the root problems of society, Howard
Rainer of Davis University states ?Nietzsche felt morals destroyed the basic framework
of society.? Hobbes view on morals was affected by his fanatical belief in Christianity, he
basically referred back to the scriptures for all his idea on morality; his greatest source
for ideas on morality was the Book of Exodus. ?Many of Hobbes ideas concerning
morality have there base in the Bible, which he constantly refers to in his
works.?(Howard Rainer, Lecture Notes) Hobbes defends Christian morality in Leviathan,
he believes that only a society with a strong moral base is capable of keeping the wicked
nature of man in check. Hobbes was also a hypocrite, he believed that a King could
violate God?s laws if they were in the best interests of the state. Hobbes maintained that
everything must be done to protect the commonwealth, even morals could be tossed aside
for the advancement of the commonwealth. Nietzsche believed that
?Because we have for millennia made moral, aesthetic, religious demands on the
world, looked upon it with blind desire, passion or fear, and abandoned
ourselves to the bad habits of illogical thinking, this world has gradually
become so marvelously variegated, frightful, meaningful, soulful, it has
acquired color – but we have been the colorists: it is the human intellect that
has made appearances appear and transported its erroneous basic conceptions
into things.?( Human, all too Human, s.16)
these morals compounded themselves over the centuries making errors seem like truths,
Nietzsche was against these commonplace errors in our societies morals. Hobbes and
Nietzsche have absolutely nothing similar in the realm of morals.
The beliefs of Hobbes and Nietzsche contradict each other at every available
opportunity, their philosophies are totally different on almost every level. Nietzsche has a
hatred of Christianity which is unsurpassed, he believed that Christianity was one of the
leading reasons for a herd mentality in society; Hobbes embrace Christianity and uses the
scriptures as one of his main sources of inspiration. Only on the topic of human nature
do Hobbes and Nietzsche ideas come closer together, both of these philosopher held a
pessimistic view of human nature; Hobbes believed it was a ?warre…of every man,
against every man?(Leviathan, 232), while Nietzsche held the belief that the human race
was a large herd. On morality Nietzsche and Hobbes do not see eye to eye, Nietzsche did
not belief in any sort of morals while Hobbes used the Bible as his main moral cookbook,
these two radically different ideas do not match up whatsoever. In conclusion Nietzsche
and Hobbes are two philosophers with very different life philosophies.
Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. Toronto, 1985. Penguin Classics.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Toronto, 1982. Penguin Books.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Anti-Christ. Toronto, 1982. Penguin Books.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. Human, All Too Human. Toronto, 1986. Penguin Books.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Will To Power. Toronto, 1982. Penguin Books.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. Daybreak. Toronto, 1984. Penguin Books.
Grayman, Helen. Broward College. Lecture Notes.
Johnston, Ian. Malaspina University. Lecture Notes.
Kropotkin, Peter. Ethics: Origins and Development. 1989. George E. Harrap & Co.,Ltd.
Rainer, Howard. Davis University. Lecture Notes.
Book of Exodus, The Bible.
Hobbes, Thomas. The Citizen: Liberty-Dominion-Religion. Toronto, 1981. Penguin
Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Gay Science. Toronto, 1982. Penguin Books
Nietzsche, Friedrich. Twilight of the Idols. Toronto, 1982. Penguin Books
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